|Feb 2, 2013|
|Enghebatu Togochog at meeting on Capitol Hill, Jan 31, 2013 (RFA photo)|
The following is a speech by Enghebatu Togochog, Director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) at "Ticking Time Bomb", a meeting held on Capitol Hill on January 31, 2013:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Enghebatu Togochog. I represent the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. Based in New York, we are dedicated to promoting and protecting the human rights of the Mongolian people in Southern Mongolia, commonly known as Inner Mongolia.
I would like to thank the members and staff of Congress for supporting the human rights cause of the Mongolians, Uyghurs, Tibetans and Chinese people, and for allowing us to raise the issues they face in China.
I also would like to thank Dr. Yang Jianli; his colleagues; my dear friends from the Uyghur American Association; and the International Campaign for Tibet for coordinating this event to provide us with an opportunity to share our concerns here on Capitol Hill.
Since the main topic of this panel concerns the recent unrests in Southern Mongolia, East Turkistan, Tibet and China, I would like to talk about the large-scale protests by Mongolian herders and students in 2011, and also mention two prominent Mongolian political dissidents, Mr. Hada and Ms Huuchinhuu in the context of political defiance of nonviolent resistance movement. Toward the end of this presentation, I also would like to share with you some information on another form of resistance movement, relatively low-profile yet massive in scale, aiming at gaining confidence and empowering the general population of Southern Mongolia.
The unrest by Mongolia herders and students in May, 2011 was sparked by the brutal killing of a Mongolian herder named Mergen by a Chinese truck driver. Mergen was trying to block the Chinese coal-hauling trucks from running through his pastures when this particular driver ran over him, dragging his body under the wheels for 150 meters. The Chinese driver also told the herders that “the life of you smelly Mongolians is worth no more than 40,000 Yuan”. Mongolians immediately took to the streets of Uzumchin Banner of Shiliin-gol League to demand protection for their grazing lands and justice for the herders. Thousands of herders and students also took to the streets from nearby places, and unrest quickly spread across the region. Students and netizens helped disseminate information and rally others via social media, cell phones and text messages.
Chinese authorities quickly mobilized riot police and paramilitary forces in major cities including Hohhot, Shiliin-hot, Ordos, Tongliao, and Ulaanhad and elsewhere. The authorities declared martial law and sealed shut schools, colleges, squares and streets. Foreign journalists were denied access to Southern Mongolia and those journalists who arrived at the locations of unrest were confined to their hotels by the Chinese authorities.
Despite martial law and tight surveillance, Mongolian students and netizens published their action plan and protest schedules publicly on the Internet, calling for further resistance. Thousands more joined the protests, which quickly spread to virtually every major cities and municipality in the region.
The politically astute regional party boss, Hu Chunhua, devised a two pronged approach. He mobilized a show of force, but also appeared to listen to the Mongolian grievances. The truck driver and his partner were immediately arrested as “criminals”. Officials visited the family of the dead herder, promising to handle the case quickly and satisfactorily. Hu Chunhua himself paid a visit to the rural Mongolian communities.
At the same time, accustomed to ethnic unrests, the Central Government responded quickly to define the nature of the unrest, claiming that the protests were backed by foreign hostile forces. On May 31, 2011, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ms. Jiang Yu stated in her briefing that an overseas organization with “ulterior motivations” was behind the unrests. The “Global Times”(Huan Qiu Shi Bao), a Chinese Communist Party(or CCP) mouthpiece, published an article on the same day explaining Jiang Yu’s statement: “the foreign hostile force is referring to the organization called the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, based in the United States”, which is my organization. This is the all-too-familiar CCP approach to Tibetan, Uyghur and Mongolian issues; “troubles” are always laid on the doorstep of “foreign hostile forces.” And CCP’s own policies are never questioned.
After about a month of alternating between “hard” and “soft” tactics, the authorities finally cracked down on the large-scale protests. More than a hundred Mongolian students, herders and netizens were detained for “instigating troubles”. Nevertheless, sporadic protests by Mongolian herders have continued. The latest was the protest by Mongolian herders of Alshaa region who took to the streets three months ago to protest the authorities’ arbitrary expropriation of their grazing lands.
As mentioned earlier, in the broader context of nonviolent resistance movements by Southern Mongolians, I would like to cite the cases of two political dissidents, the prominent political prisoner Mr.Hada and his family members, and Ms.Huuchinhuu.
Mr.Hada was sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence in 1996 for organizing the “Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance” and advocating national self-determination for Southern Mongolia. He completed his sentence on December 10, 2010, but instead of being released he was transferred to a secret prison in suburban Hohhot, capital city of Southern Mongolia. He is still there, and his access to family members and communication is extremely restricted. His physical and mental conditions have deteriorated.
Hada’s main offense in the eyes of the Chinese authorities is his consistent refusal to cooperate with them. Not only did he steadfastly refuse to admit to any crime or wrongdoing; he plans to sue the Autonomous Region authorities for his imprisonment.
Hada’s wife Xinna, son Uiles and other relatives including his uncle, mother-in-law and sister-in-law have also refused to cooperate, despite intimidation and harassment. Both Xinna and Uiles have been detained for nearly two years since December 2010. Currently they are being “monitored in residence”, a form of house arrest.
A similar case concerns Ms.Huuchinhuu, a well known dissident, activist and writer. She was a member of the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, of which Hada was the president. Huuchinhuu has publicly asserted her membership to the organization and also rejected any cooperation with the Chinese authorities. In November 2010, she was arrested for rallying Mongolians via the Internet to publicly welcome Hada’s expected release. She was recently released and placed under a de facto house arrest after two years of detention.
Life has been a nightmare for Mr. Hada, his family and Ms. Huuchinhuu for no reason other than their dedication to the struggle for the basic human rights of the Southern Mongolians, and their refusal to cooperate with the authorities.
Lastly, I would like to bring to light the popular grassroots resistance movements by the Southern Mongolians, who seek to reclaim their national identity by speaking in their native language, practicing their traditions, and maintaining their traditional way of life. Their resistance includes filing lawsuits, making official complaints and constant scrutiny of laws and practices concerning the right to use their native language on official occasions and in public life, as guaranteed by the Chinese Ethnic Autonomy Law and relevant regulations. Some sued the Chinese Postal authorities in Southern Mongolia for not delivering letters addressed in Mongolian; others refused to pay fines and fees to government agencies for their failure to provide official documents in Mongolian; still others fought to have court proceedings carried out in the Mongolian language. Also, some forced government branches to accept and recognize documents in Mongolian; others succeeded in using Mongolian in official exams and tests for government employment in the Autonomous Region; still others firmly insisted on signing their names in Mongolian on official documents and refused to use the Chinese language; and others rallied and mobilized thousands of students to use their traditional Mongolian last names on academic papers and documents.
The latest such movement we learned about recently involves Mongolians demanding the Chinese authorities pass legislation to guarantee the use of the Mongolian language in all spheres of public life.
Although largely unnoticed by the international community compared to those high-profile human rights violations cases, these low-key, low-risk, yet relatively high pay-off movements are helping boost national self-confidence. In the long run, these movements also serve to train the general populace to resist any form of dictatorial control, colonial occupation and domestic repression.
In carrying out our activities for promoting human rights and democracy, not only should we help publicize high-profile human rights issues and gross human rights violations, but also we should fully recognize the importance of these low-key grassroots level resistance movements and provide assistances to them through all possible means.
Therefore, my recommendations to the US Government in regard to human rights conditions in Southern Mongolia are as follows:
1. Urge the Chinese Government to release Hada, return freedoms to his family members and Ms.Huuchinhuu immediately;
2. Send a fact-finding mission to Southern Mongolia to carry out a thorough investigation on Chinese authorities’ gross human rights violations of Mongolian herders, unscrupulous economic exploitation, and total destruction of Mongolian natural environment;
3. Pay closer attention to Southern Mongolian issues as the strategic importance of Southern Mongolia is growing as the Chinese authoritarian regime is heavily relying on Southern Mongolia for energy thanks to its vast mineral wealth.
Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center